The ability to get from A to B safely and conveniently is so important to our local economy, our wellbeing, our quality of life and our personal and professional opportunities. It’s why I spend so much time campaigning for better buses, increased rail capacity, a Longdendale bypass, better routes across the Pennines, and more. But for people with disabilities or access needs, local transport options still leave much to be desired.
It was therefore an absolute pleasure to meet with local transport campaigner Nathaniel Yates recently. You may have seen Nathaniel’s videos about the accessibility of public transport in Greater Manchester. As the constituency with the most train stations in Greater Manchester, I’d been looking forward to our chat.
There is certainly a lot to do. In 2010 the first austerity budget killed off a number of schemes to improve the accessibility of train stations across GM and we were quite badly affected by that.
The latest information I have is that the Department for Transport have requested nominations for the Access for All (AfA) Programme for the period 2024-2029. The funding is uncertain but stations selected for this programme could expect to receive an accessible route into the station and to and between each platform. Transport for Greater Manchester and Northern Rail Limited have prepared a joint nomination for 11 of Greater Manchester’s railway stations. I’m pleased to say 4 of those are in our constituency. They are: Flowery Field, Newton for Hyde, Hattersley and Broadbottom.
There is also an obvious and significant issue at Mossley station. I have been told that it is expected that accessibility at Mossley Station will be developed as part of the TransPennine Route Upgrade (TRU) and the intention will be to deliver accessibility at this station when TRU is delivered. For that reason, it was decided not to include Mossley station in the submission to the Department for Transport.
Nathaniel also argued that we need more “Friends of X Station” groups across Greater Manchester, something I wholly support. The power of local activism can do wonderful things, as we’ve seen for instance at Broadbottom.
For me accessible transport is a just expectation in a modern economy. Ability to get on a train should not be a barrier to work or study in 2022. It’s also personal for me. My eldest son Jack divides his time between our house in Stalybridge and his mum’s in South Manchester. He has autism and learning difficulties, but now he’s 19, is rightly keen to establish as much independence as he safely can. I want a world in which transport is wheelchair friendly, autism friendly, sensory impairment friendly, and friendly and accessible to all. Thanks to brilliant campaigners like Nathaniel we’re one step closer.